Thursday, December 20, 2012
Plano farmers market officially in the works
The market is tentatively scheduled to be open Saturdays in April through October.
PLANO Kari Gates grows a variety of standard and exotic produce on her small farm near Plano East Senior High School. Starting this spring, Gates will have a place close to home to sell her kale, Easter egg radishes, and snake cucumbers.
Gates began the process of opening a market earlier this year, but found Plano regulations prevented markets from operating within city limits. Tuesday night, Gates got what she wanted when the city council unanimously approved changes to the food ordinance that will clear the way for farmers markets.
"It took almost 11 months, but we got what we wanted," Gates said. "We got a market and we will get a permit. It is a good day for small businesses and small farmers."
The market will be located at Fairview Farms, 3314 N. Central Expressway, and is tentatively scheduled to be open Saturdays from April to October. Gates and Scott Merner, the market's manager, said the eventual goal is to keep the market open year round.
"We are now going to direct our attention away from the food ordinance, and we are going to start paying attention to creating a viable, successful market," Merner said. "There are going to be a lot of citizens in Plano and the surrounding communities that are excited there is now a farmers market."
Several major changes were made to the food ordinance. Among the most important was changing the definition of a farmers market in order to allow not only produce but also items such as cheese, milk, and meat. This, Gates said, will allow the market to be a one-stop shop for people who wish to meet the people who grew or raised the food they eat.
The most recent change was approved Tuesday, when Plano Health Director Brian Collins told the council that market operators would not be held liable for violations committed by vendors. Instead, the vendors will receive the fines, a decision Merner said was necessary for any markets to operate successfully.
Councilman Pat Miner chaired the committee made up of market supporters and members of the city's health department that ultimately came up with the compromise passed by the council. While the two sides were far apart when negotiations began, Miner said that is not what he focused on.
"The process was actually trying to find out what we had in common versus what we didn't have in common," Miner said, adding that everyone involved wanted to achieve the same goal. "I think once both sides got [to] talking they started realizing all the commonalities. The last point or two were resolved in the past week."
Miner said he was proud of the way the situation worked itself out, noting that city staff, the city council and the public all came together to create a solution that will benefit Plano for years to come.
"This may not be the only farmers market that opens in Plano," Miner said. "We were not trying to do this for one market, we were trying to look at the big picture. In the future, other markets that decide they want to open in the city will have a good base to operate from - and I think Kari's group played a big part in that."
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